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Allison Rippin Armstrong and Brad Thrall

Mining executive delivers advice to committee

Either find a solution or withdraw the four controversial amendments to the assessment act,

By Chuck Tobin on March 31, 2015

Either find a solution or withdraw the four controversial amendments to the assessment act, a mining executive told a House of Commons committee Monday in Whitehorse.

“Our position is if the government is not going to come back and address the issues with the First Nations, that they be removed from the bill,” Allison Rippin Armstrong, Kaminak Gold’s vice-president, said during the day-long hearing.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development held hearings in Whitehorse on proposed amendments to Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

First Nations have promised legal action against four of the amendments they say were crafted in the back room by the Yukon government with industry at its side and then sent off to Ottawa without any input or feedback from the First Nations.

The First Nations and many other organizations argue the four amendments will have an intolerable impact on the assessment process and the independence of the assessment board.

Rippin Armstrong told the committee Kaminak understands that while most of the 70-plus amendments were supported by First Nations, some amendments did not reflect discussions during the five-year review.

The review presented an opportunity to celebrate an historic alignment between the Yukon government and First Nations, she said.

Instead, said Rippin Armstrong, First Nations are threatening to take the federal government to court if the four amendments are included in the bill.

“Kaminak is very concerned by this development because court cases create assessment and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence,” she told the committee.

Rippin Armstrong said the community of investors in mineral exploration and development is very mobile.

While Canada’s political stability remains attractive, investors have never been more globalized, she said.

“If Bill S-6 is passed and challenged in court, the Coffee Project, and our presence in the Yukon, is uncertain,” she told the committee.

“Kaminak urges the federal government to resume discussions with the First Nations, to work collectively toward reaching consensus on the proposed amendments to YESAA and avoiding a court challenge.”

Bill S-6 has already been passed by the Senate, and has received second reading in the House of Commons. Seven of the 10 committee members were in Whitehorse for the hearings, including Yukon MP Ryan Leef.

The committee heard Monday from more than 20 individuals representing the Yukon government, industry, First Nations, environmental organizations, the assessment board and other stakeholders.

Premier Darrell Pasloski opened the hearings by assuring the committee the government is in full supports of Bill S-6 in its current form.

Presenting alongside Rippin Armstrong was Brad Thrall, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, and vice-president of Alexco Resource Corp., the company which owns the Bellekeno Mine and mill operation in Keno City.

Also present was Ron Light, president of the Minto Mine.

The chamber also supports Bill S-6 in its current form, and sees a pressing need to implement even the controversial amendments, he told the committee.

Thrall said Alexco, for instance, has gone through the assessment process 10 times in the past eight years for activities that are similar in nature and had already been through an assessment.

The company has had to go through a full re-assessment simply to extend the life of an operating permit from five to 10 years, he said.

Thrall said the time lines in the overall assessment process are growing longer and longer.

Even the time it takes the assessment board to determine if has all the information it needs to conduct an assessment is growing longer and longer, he said.

“The current uncertainty in reassessments and continued extensions of the time required for a YESAA assessment has a negative impact on our ability to efficiently plan and operate our business,” Thrall told the committee.

“And, by extension, it impairs the competitiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to assert certainty in the mine development and production process and attraction of scarce investment capital.”

Thrall said the chamber believes the proposed amendments will improve the areas of most concern to the industry.

Leef reminded the Kaminak vice-president that her company president signed off on a list of recommendations in 2013 as a member of the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board.

The amendments in S-6, including the controversial amendments, are meant to address those recommendations, he said.

If the First Nations are promising legal action if they’re not withdrawn, then how are the issues supposed to be addressed, Leef asked Rippin Armstrong.

The Kaminak vice-president said she heard the First Nations earlier in the day clearly say they were willing to return to the table to discuss the four amendments.

Comments (15)

Up 5 Down 4

We don't need YESSA any minister can approve all the projects on Apr 6, 2015 at 11:32 am

We don't need YESSA any minister can approve all the projects. There is an terrible smell in the house these days what can it be?

Up 22 Down 0

Bobby Bitman on Apr 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm

If the facts show that it is taking the employees at YESSA longer and longer to do their jobs, that does need to be investigated. Do they have less staff now? Are they just simply less productive and not getting the work done that previous employees did? These are well paid quasi-government workers and I'd like to know why those time lines are getting longer, if in fact that is even true.

Holding the YESSA workers accountable for getting their work done is one 'contentious' ammendment that might very well have merit.

As for the prime minister setting the objectives as he/she sees fit, that is ridiculous. We all know Harper's goal for Canada is resource extraction anywhere and everywhere, with foreign ownership and foreign workers - absolutely! so long as it all gets exploited as fast as possible. This is not the vision held by most Canadians who are much more responsible stewards of our resources and our environment. Allowing a money-crazed corporate schill of a prime minister to order the YESSA board on what they will approve negates the whole point of the board.

Up 16 Down 1

iceberg on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:20 pm

@This is going to be a different piece and out things into perspective Mr D

"Leave your ego at home every morning!"
Funny but I suspect you do not know Mr. D very well as that simply isn't possible, ego is all he has. Contrary to you, I do not think this is someone in over their head and afraid to ask for help he simply doesn't care enough to do a good job and is laughing at all Yukoners.

"build his business." And what business would that be? You might want to check the facts on that one, he was simply a pharmacist not a business owner.

"Change your ways MR D/Premier before the people of the Yukon change it for you." Sorry no motivation in that, he won't win his own seat and will not step aside unless the Yukon Party itself forces him. It is likely the Yukon Party will lose but it a certainty with the Paz at the helm.

As to your references to the NDP and Liberals, I have lived in the Yukon long enough to have seen all three parties in power and the YP has already done much worse than either of the alternatives so no incentive for change by the YP there either. It says a great deal when even Yukon Party members can't pretend anymore that this government knows what it is doing. Change cannot come soon enough.

Up 19 Down 2

yukon 56 on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:27 am

Pasloski for pharmacist!!!!

Up 11 Down 27

This is going to be a different piece and out things into perspective Mr D. on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm

The Yukon has had 14 years of steady growth in the Yukon. Like it or not but Dennis F, was the person who put in place the structure to start the Yukon back onto a growth path and very healthy economy.
Mr F. did it while bringing people together in his own rough and some times confrontational manner that rubbed people the wrong way. During this period there was close to $2 billion dollars invested in capital projects in public infrastructure, which has bettered our lives. $100's of millions in affordable housing which is continuing on as we speak.
The Yukon has strong health care, doctors, medical staff, educations, community support, economy.
MR. F knew how to bring people together to support the Yukon interest and all its people. For example, I was leaving Ottawa airport on one of my trips, who comes a long Mr. F, Tony P former premier, other former leaders, First Nations people all together and they were in Ottawa talking to a Liberal Government to support government needs in the Yukon. They were all very happy because they had got what they wanted. The success of the Yukon is all the doing of Mr. F!

Mr D is in way over his head but does not realize it.
Mr D when you look at how you have managed the peel, fracking, and now Bill S-6 you do not understand the ways of the Yukon and their people.
I worked on land claims and watched the Yukon First Nation people make history in Canada on how First Nations are partners of Canada, but you cannot see the manner of your way in what you are doing wrong and are lost in power because of a number of reasons and they are not bad but actual good and I know you are proud of them:
Realize what you can and cannot do!
Realize when you are not getting it and call for help!
Leave your ego at home every morning!
Omit you can make mistakes! Make jokes about your mistakes! What was I thinking when I did what!
Smile and lighten up!
Very serious side of MR D for the all the people of the Yukon:
Mr D is human like all the rest of us and I have just given him some very blunt statements to think about before doing anything else and get himself into more to do!
Mr D has taken on the toughest job in the Yukon! Mr D is not perfect like all of us commenting here!
Mr D believes in the way the Yukon should go, rightly or wrongly, and if he makes the wrong choices people are letting him know!
Mr D is of Polish background and has worked very hard to get his education and build his business.
You are successful be proud off it, but realize when you are wrong in politics you need to work on!
Mr Premier, open up your heart and show it to the people of the Yukon because I have seen your heart as a very kind and caring person!
Change your ways MR D/Premier before the people of the Yukon change it for you.

Up 23 Down 2

iceberg on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:46 pm

I am concerned by the number of comments appearing in various news articles suggesting that it is a surprise that Darrell Pasloski has no leadership skills. If his YP supporters (Lang & Tuton club) had bothered to look at who they were putting forward, Paz would never have made it to an election for a riding at all. What we have witnessed in his tenure as the Yukon Premier are the very same qualities he exhibited as a pharmacist and chair of Vanier School Council. Even as the writing is on the wall in bold as with the Peel, Bill S-6, relationships with FNs etc., he persists as if he is standing up for principles. He is so arrogant he actually thinks others will not figure out he doesn’t have a clue and does not represent Yukon people at all.

Pasloski will be a one term premier and is MUCH more than he should have attained. The Yukon Party might want to be a little more selective in future if they want to exist at all.

Up 32 Down 10

Look at the faces of the mining companies what does that tell you on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:16 am

Look at the faces of the mining companies, what does that tell you? They are not in support of this Premiers actions by their expressions. Mining companies will not get the support of First Nations, not because of the mining companies, but the actions of the Premier in managing this file and the impossible ability to lead economic develop in the Yukon.
This is turning into a dictatorship instead of good government. Colonialism would be another seemly view of it.
This is close to other actions we know is not best for people of the Yukon!
Yukoners stand up and speak your mind on this very important issue for your future because it is going down the tubes right now and no one is stopping it.

Up 20 Down 29

north_of_60 on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Get serious, whoever you are with your long winded, boring diatribes. Mining contributes very little to the Yukon economy, but it does make one hell of a mess. Other than placer mining it causes more expense than revenue to the taxpayers of Canada who fund almost everything in the Yukon. In most cases hard rock mining in the Yukon is an economic deficit for the taxpayers of Canada. Go mine somewhere else, we don't need you here.

Up 30 Down 6

Premier actions stopping development on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Premier's actions will be worse than NDP and Liberals at stopping development in the Yukon. Mining companies have made it clear that if the Yukon Party Government does not get a system in place that works there gone and so is any economy.
Start engaging First Nations bring them in as partners so that they are true partners.
First Nations can help a lot on development and save lots of money with their traditional knowledge of the land, water, animals etc.
I can't believe how over the top this premier is and thinks he can just do whatever he wants, how he wants, when wants, anyway he wants.
Talk to people, who were involved with land claims to get direction, employ First Nations people to help you.
How many First Nation people do you have in your office to advise you MR. Premier? None that I see.
Call your airplane travel partner A Redford and see what she will advise you.
Yukon Party - call for a leadership review because people are fed up with the bad judgement of this Premier.
Mr. Premier, you are one step at a time taking down the Yukon Party and the Yukon as whole.
Mr. Premier do you want your Legacy to be the one that failed the Yukon worse than the NDP or liberals did when they were in power?
I'm being hard on you because you don't listen, to party members, voters, people that are in the know.
Let face it, you are not the Premier/leader that people thought you were and there is nothing wrong with that.
Going from never sitting in office, to be a premier, for you was a mistake, face up to it.

Up 30 Down 4

Premier failing again on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Premier you are not listing and failing the Yukon Party. Yukon Party members have talked about how don't get it and all there is one bad move after another. This is worse than the peel, fracking, hospitals etc.
Step down or at least as one person has stated, do the right thing. Eat some humble pie and don't talk about doing business with First Nations. If you were smart, you would show how you are going to work with First Nations and be a true leader by withdrawing the four amendments because if you don't, you are done as a political leader.
Like a lot of smart political leaders including DF there is a time when you have to leave. You are a one time Premier start getting used to it. I have seen this so many times before, the power of the position takes away your ability to see the truth and have good judgement.
You are going to lose your seat because people are going to do to you what they did to Arthur M in the last election.
Currie did not win the seat Arthur lost the seat.
Step aside and don't put yourself through what Arthur suffered.

Up 44 Down 10

Stop and think Premier and MP on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:06 am

This is not how land claims was settled and Mr. Premier and MR. MP you need to step back and take a look at what you are doing. Ask yourselves these questions:
1. Are these amendments going to add any positive change and value to the process?
2. Are the amendments in the best interest of all parties involved? Not First Nations or mining companies only the administration in government and not the elected officials.
3. Is it reasonable to pass amendments and then discuss it? No, this is more like total control and power which the administration of the Yukon Government wants and is not in the interest of any Yukoners.
4. MR. Premier and MR. MP put your feet in the Yukon First Nation position and ask yourself the following: If the First Nations stated to you we are going to take total control of the power to make the decision on all projects developed in the Yukon and we will pass that amendment then discuss it. What would the Yukon Government do?
5. For example that is what seems to be happening with the Peel and the Yukon Government is going to court to assert it's rights as an elected government.
6. The Yukon is heading down a dangerous path and there is no blame because that does not work at all!
7. We need to reset of how we all work together and how to move forward.
8. Keep the lawyers and the administration of the Yukon Government out of the process and sit down and develop a framework of how to work together for everyones interest.
9. Put in place a disputed resolution process that you all agree to and let it do its job!
10. Very important - both sides will not get what they want the way they want but the middle is the balance you all can live with.
11. I suggest the elected officials from First Nations and the Yukon Government go somewhere behind closed doors and work out the framework of how to move forward with land claims.
12. I know people on both sides of this situation for many years and I was asked last night to try to put some sense of direction to the process on paper!
Start fresh and get people to facilitate the outcome on both sides.
Yukon is so far more advanced on First Nation Government just with land claims alone in place.
It is not easy but let's take down the barriers and move on so we all can gain from it and in the best interest of all.
If the NDP and liberals want to help don't take a negative approach against government and try to make it look like you support First Nations because you are not doing yourself or the First Nations or anyone any favor but fueling more negativism.
Come up with alternatives NDP and Liberals if you want to gain respect and trust.
Mr Premier stand up in the house this week and eat some humble pie and make statements that show you are willing to listen and want to work truly with First Nations.
Extend the amendments to the environmental process and open new talks with First Nations.
When a situation becomes to a we and them nothing comes out of it that is good.
You have EMR working very hard to develop a solid foundation for economic development in the Yukon.
You have economic development who should be the facilitators of economic development taking steps to resolve this situation by advising government on how best to resolve these problems that affect the Yukon's economic future doing nothing but sitting on their hands.

Up 38 Down 6

YTer on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:39 am

"If the First Nations are promising legal action if they’re not withdrawn, then how are the issues supposed to be addressed, Leef asked Rippin Armstrong"
As I read the article, the First Nations are opposed to some of the amendments, period. The problem seems to be that Leef and Pasloski are just not listening. The FN leaders are saying drop these amendments, and Pasloski keeps saying lets talk about how we can implement them. I'd say that's a deal killer.

Up 27 Down 17

Where is the NDP and Liberals on Mar 31, 2015 at 7:06 pm

NDP and liberals sitting on their hands and the side lines.

Up 26 Down 15

ProScience Greenie on Mar 31, 2015 at 4:10 pm

More and more talented, educated and experienced workers are out of work everyday here in the Yukon. Paz and Liz better stop clowning around. This fight they have over which party gets elected next election to control the billion dollars from Ottawa has to end. Time to straighten this out before these very reputable mining companies walk away for good leaving us with nothing but government jobs (for those lucky enough to get one) or putting on a fake smile and selling trinkets to tourists seasonally and at a low wage.

Up 42 Down 9

nope on Mar 31, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Its rather humorous seeing a mining company stand up to Paz N Palz.

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